If you're gonna make love in the back of a vehicle, Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger says you might as well make it a Suburban. Trust him; it's much better than the back of a Volkswagen.
Master of Erotica Joe Sarno comes out of retirement.
Seduction Cinema producer Michael Raso had a great idea, which he details honestly in the "Inside Suburban Secrets" mini-documentary on this disc. His Misty Mundae films, starring Misty Mundae and Darian Caine, had made a splash in the languishing softcore erotica genre. (True, we here at DVD Verdict are often harsh with said films, but there's no denying their popularity.) Meanwhile, Retro Seduction Cinema was releasing older films by the erotic auteur Joe Sarno. In a brilliant moment of inspiration, Raso asked Sarno to come out of retirement and direct Seduction Cinema's young cult heroines. It would have been a cross generational erotic slam dunk. If only things had gone according to plan…
Facts of the Case
Pinup model Laura (Isadora Edison, Sexy Adventures of Van Helsing) learns of some bad news on the home front from her sister Winnifred (Chelsea Mundae, The Seduction of Misty Mundae). She just has time for some lesbian love before heading back to New England to see what's up. Turns out that her Aunt Cynthia (Tina Tyler, Pulp Friction) is getting it on with Laura's ex hump buddy, Nelson Nyland (John Samuel Jordan, Sexy Adventures of Van Helsing) Laura's ire vanishes when she finds out that the two are in love. But Laura knows that Nelson's jealous sister, Judith (Kay Kirtland), will stop at nothing to break the lovers apart.
Hearing Joe Sarno talk about Suburban Secrets is like listening to John Madden talk about football. He is a little out of touch, and clings to old fashioned values. He tosses out worn clichés when you wish he'd get to the point. But no matter how much his delivery irks you, you know that the man has forgotten more about erotica than most of us will ever know. Indeed, Joe Sarno is legendary. But can he really make a triumphant comeback to the softcore genre?
Why, yes. Yes, he can. In fact, Suburban Secrets is in many ways the cross generational erotic slam dunk that Raso was hoping for. If only things had gone according to plan. See, Misty didn't want to play, so neither did Darian Caine. Misty claimed she was burnt out on the softcore genre and wanted to make real films. Given that she went on to star in The Erotic Diary of Misty Mundae, The Seduction of Misty Mundae, New York Wildcats, The Girl Who Shagged Me, Bikini Girls on Dinosaur Planet, An Erotic Werewolf in London, and Sinful in short order, I suspect something else was going on.
It's my own speculation, but I think Misty knew she had a sweet gig going on. She was the new face of softcore. She and her college buddies could lie around the dorm naked with a digicam and make enough cash to party for weeks. But if a revered director like Sarno took the helm, the chemistry would be queered. Perhaps her customary crude production values would no longer fly. Maybe her mystique would be gone. I don't know for sure if any of this went through the mind of Misty Mundae. I only know that she went on to make the same kind of films she had been doing, and Sarno was given Seduction Cinema's second string to work with.
Who knows what would have happened had Misty Mundae and Darian Caine starred in this film. Who cares…Sarno makes Isadora Edison the second coming of Jayne Mansfield. Laura's curves bust out of her trashy clothes. The camera loves her face and her body. And erotic cinema vet Tina Tyler is absolutely scorching as the lusty Aunt Cynthia. Whether it is her natural grace or Sarno's skill is irrelevant—her scenes work fantastically well for those who like real women in softcore settings. I was mesmerized by what was to come. Sarno's pacing and careful camera framing had me begging to see it all.
As he does in many of his films, Sarno lets the camera linger. There is no frantic cutting, just loving shots of writhing bodies. Writhing, flushed, uninhibited bodies yelling obscenities at the tops of their lungs. Twosomes or threesomes, straight or lesbian, legal or incestual—each scene sparkles with unbridled sexual energy. There isn't any real sex in Suburban Secrets, nor any graphic shots of genitalia. No, it is simply old-fashioned, blissful softcore that happens to star the supporting players of Seduction Cinema's lineup.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is where the wheels come off. Suburban Secrets has a carefully structured cadence of love scene—exposition—love scene—exposition. The exposition parts are, shall we say, somewhat flat. Though Edison and Tyler are capable, the rest of the cast struggles to stay afloat. Chelsea Mundae is the worst offender, delivering her lines as though she were chewing cardboard. On the other end of the spectrum, Kay Kirtland is a maelstrom of melodrama.
The image quality is not fantastic on a pure scale, but it is artistic and clean for a low-budget effort. Likewise, the sound is dynamically uninspired, but effective in getting the passion across.
Seduction Cinema has wisely let us hear from the people responsible for putting this film together in the "Inside Suburban Secrets" mini-documentary. This is not fluff, but an actual discussion of the joys and challenges of making the film. The other two featurettes are just as good, giving us plenty of well-deserved fawning over a master of the erotic. Less worthy is the "Hot TV" cut, which I'll bet gets played by 1% of the people who buy this set. Throw in trailers and considerate liner notes, you get a package that is worthy of a Sarno comeback.
I'll admit I am burning with curiosity to see what Joe Sarno would have done with Misty Mundae. Even without that marquee matchup, Suburban Secrets is a worthy entry into Sarno's extensive filmography. He doesn't break new ground, but he does prove himself once again. Sometimes plodding and admittedly overlong, Suburban Secrets bristles often enough to make it a great softcore film.
Court will reconvene in the suburbs.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Seduction Cinema
• "Inside Suburban Secrets" mini-documentary
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